BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei and Singapore should build on their currency interchangeability agreement to strengthen cooperation, given the uncertainties in the global economy, the city-state’s senior minister said.

Describing the agreement as a hallmark of both countries’ relations, Teo Chee Hean said the currency peg has eliminated foreign exchange risks and facilitated trade and investment.

He said the pegged exchange rate, which has been in place for 52 years, has also benefitted the people of both countries.

Teo was delivering a talk titled “A Special Partnership for a Brighter Future” at Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) on Thursday.

He is leading a delegation of young Singapore political office holders for the 7th Young Leaders’ Programme (YLP), an annual exchange of visits between Brunei and Singapore.

The senior minister said Singapore and Brunei have always shared a “very special relationship” and there are opportunities for the two countries to collaborate in emerging areas such as the digital economy and electronic payments.

To harness the potential of technology and deal with its challenges, he said universities have a key role to equip graduates with skills to help bring solutions.

“Universities also need to move beyond conferring academic degrees to promoting life-long learning.

“It is no longer sufficient for your graduates to use the same knowledge and skills for the rest of their lives,” he added.

Singapore’s Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean speaks with UTB students during his visit on Oct 3, 2019. Photo: Courtesy of UTB

Teo, who is also coordinating minister for national security, said Singapore and Brunei have to continue working together to strengthen defence cooperation to contribute to regional stability and safeguard each other’s security.

The Singapore Armed Forces conducts regular jungle and survival training in Temburong and both militaries have frequent bilateral exercises and visits.

Singapore and Brunei are also working together on new areas such as judicial cooperation and food security.

The two countries announced on Wednesday the setting up of a joint working group between Brunei’s Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism and Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry to drive agrifood and aquaculture cooperation.

Given the global trade issues that have emerged, Teo said one immediate area for cooperation is upholding free trade and economic integration.

He urged Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) members to work towards an expeditious conclusion of the free trade agreement, as it provides an important opportunity to boost the existing multilateral trading framework that has benefited all countries.

RCEP brings together the 10 ASEAN member states and six regional partners with existing FTAs with ASEAN, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Once formed, RCEP will be the world’s largest economic bloc.

The senior minister went on to say that ASEAN is the cornerstone of the two countries’ foreign policies.

“Working through ASEAN gives us a bigger voice to tackle issues at a regional level and on the world stage. We have always collaborated closely in ASEAN and worked together to uphold ASEAN unity and centrality,” he said.

He added that Singapore looked forward to supporting Brunei when the sultanate takes over the ASEAN chairmanship in 2021.